For President Barack Obama, good governance is also good politics.
Four days before Election Day, Obama showed solid leadership during a national crisis. While Hurricane Sandy’s deadly storm devastated coastal towns and left much of New York City and Long Island, New York waterlogged and without power, Obama was the nation’s anchor in the storm.
Hurricane Sandy, the most powerful weather system to hit the East Coast, presented an unexpected yet defining moment for Obama.
The president was able to navigate a thicket where politics and governing collide. In the midst of an extremely close presidential race, Obama stayed off the campaign trail for two days speaking to the governors of the storm’s impacted states and making sure the government’s relief efforts were swift and seamless.
By Thursday, the U.S. death toll from Sandy had climbed to 88. Obama wasn’t campaigning earlier this week, but he was earning valuable praise for his unflappable response to a natural catastrophe.
The president was cool under pressure – and the nation knew it.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, seems to be Obama’s newest best friend. Christie couldn’t say enough great things about Obama’s handling of Sandy, particularly for the state of New Jersey.
”I’m pleased to report that he has sprung into action to help get us those things immediately,” Christie said during a press conference this week. “It’s been a great working relationship to make sure that were doing the job people elected us to do. I cannot thank the president enough.
In a strange turn of events, with the election only days away, Christie’s remarks were almost tantamount to an endorsement.
It’s rare for a high-profile Republican governor to compliment Obama and it’s even more unusual for Christie to heap praise on Obama a week before the presidential election. Christie has probably spent more time thanking Obama and less time talking about Mitt Romney, his GOP comrade, which has some Republicans grumbling that Christie isn’t a team player.
What Christie knows well is this old adage: All politics is local. For Christie, who had hundreds of thousands of citizens in crisis, he needed immediate help from the federal government and Obama was there to deliver. The residents of New Jersey, some who had homes destroyed and many who are still in shelters, are also voters and Christie wants to stay on their good side.
And the compliments flowed both ways.
“At the top of my list, I have to say that Gov. Christie throughout this process has been responsive,” Obama said at a press conference. “He’s been aggressive in making sure that the state got out in front of this incredible storm and I think the people of New Jersey recognize that he has put his heart and soul into making sure the people of New Jersey bounce back even stronger than before.”
“So,” Obama added, “I just want to thank him for his extraordinary leadership and partnership.”
Will Obama’s shining example of leadership help him close the deal with undecided voters? And will Christie’s new friendship with Obama sway independents that are still on the fence?
Perhaps. In a razor-thin close election, where perception is everything, Obama’s crisis leadership in the past few days could be a game changer.
The latest WSJ/NBC/Marist poll shows Obama holds the lead in three swing states — Iowa, New Hampshire and Wisconsin. And polls including Quinnipiac University, the New York Times and CBS News, show Obama up by five points in Ohio and list Florida as a toss-up state.
Brandon Davis, the National Political Director for the Service Employees International Union, (SEIU) is encouraging black Americans to vote with a sense of urgency.
“When the African American community votes, it has the power to determine not just who is in office but also the direction of our nation’s policy priorities,” Davis said. “That’s why we have to show up at the polls on Nov. 6.”
Davis works directly with SEIU leadership, staff and the organization’s 2.1 million members who work as janitors, nurses, security officers, and many more, to expand the organization’s political grassroots engagement in legislative and electoral campaigns.
Most recently, Davis joined canvassing efforts in Pennsylvania, Florida and Virginia to talk to voters about the issues that matter most in their communities and how they can make a difference now and through Nov. 6.
“Four more years for President Obama will look vastly different than a Mitt Romney presidency,” Davis said. “The choice African Americans and all working people face is between a president who will continue to back policies that build the middle class by broadening access to health care, education, good jobs and widespread opportunity, or a candidate who has said he’s not concerned about the poor or 47 percent.”
Meanwhile, early voting in Florida appears to be going well. Thousands of African Americans are standing in long lines to vote.
Bishop Victor Curry, pastor of New Birth Cathedral of Faith International in Opa-locka, Florida, told the South Florida Times that Obama will protect the rights of people of color.
“Last time it was about making history,” Curry said when blacks turned out in record numbers in the 2008 election. “This time it’s personal.”
Curry is not alone.
I believe this election is personal for many African Americans who are hoping – and praying – for a better quality of life if Obama returns to the White House for another four years.
While Romney looked stiff and insincere as he passed out supplies to survivors of Hurricane Sandy inside a crowded warehouse, he was still shamelessly stumping for votes.
And with Romney playing politics, Obama worked the phones from the Oval Office instructing his administrators to release millions of dollars in federal aid that will bring quick relief to countless Americans in need.
It’s sound leadership by the president, which also happens to be good politics.